Pricing Hearing: Sadik-Khan and Aggarwala Explain the Details

Yesterday morning’s hearing at City Hall, which garnered much press today, gave Janette Sadik-Khan and Rohit Aggarwala the chance to clarify a number of misconceptions about congestion pricing in front of a sizable contingent of City Council members. As expected, one of the first points to come up was whether drivers from New Jersey will contribute anything to the congestion pricing revenue stream. Turns out they will.

In her opening remarks, Sadik-Khan mentioned that drivers entering Manhattan through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels will pay $45 million per year as a result of pricing. When Council member Joel Rivera asked about the logic behind the number, Sadik-Khan and Aggarwala explained that drivers who pay with cash instead of EZPass will not be eligible for the pricing offset. In other words, those drivers will pay both the Port Authority toll and the full pricing fee.

Pricing revenue would also come from drivers who use the tunnels during the Port Authority’s daytime off-peak hours (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.), when the toll is $6. During those times, even drivers who take advantage of the pricing offset would still pay $2 towards the congestion fee. Aggarwala noted that two-thirds of all drivers who use the Hudson River tunnels would pay all or part of the fee.

In another exchange, Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, a pricing supporter, asked whether the 367 buses to be added before pricing takes effect would be on new or existing lines. Sadik-Khan revealed that the buses will be spread among 33 existing lines and 12 new lines.

Mark-Viverito also wanted to know who would be able to veto any changes to the way congestion pricing revenue is spent. That power, said Sadik-Khan, would reside with the MTA Capital Program Review Board, currently a four-member panel that would grow to five members under the congestion pricing bill. (A rep appointed by the City Council speaker would join appointees of the governor, mayor, Senate majority leader, and Assembly speaker.) To change how congestion pricing revenue is spent, Aggarwala explained, the MTA would have to make a distinct proposal that would in turn have to be approved by the review board.

After the jump — more from yesterday’s hearing, including a back-and-forth with Streetsblog sparring partner Lew Fidler.

Before posing his allotted two questions, Fidler took the opportunity to proclaim that "PlaNYC has 120 good ideas out of 121." After pricing takes effect, he then asked, "is there anything that will guarantee that the state gives
the same amount to the MTA and transportation [as it did previously]?"

Aggarwala referred Fidler to page 23 of the congestion pricing bill, which specifically says that pricing revenue will not
be used to offset any state funding
. This seemed to catch the council member somewhat off guard. "Wonderful, but that’s not a guarantee," he said.

When Sadik-Khan brought up the latest Quinnipiac poll, which showed that New Yorkers support pricing by a 2-1 margin if the revenues are spent on transit, Fidler conjured his own — hypothetical — survey results: "I think if you polled New Yorkers and asked them
if they think the MTA will spend that money effectively, they would say,
10-1, ‘No.’ You’d find a strong number of New Yorkers that would be dubious of
the claim that the state won’t reduce transportation funding."

Fidler’s second question had to do with the cost of administering residential parking permits, which will be available to residents at no charge in the current version of the congestion pricing bill. "Other cities charge a fee for parking permits," he said. "How much will taxpayers pay for RPP if there’s no fee?"

"It was made very clear to us from public input that RPP
should be free," replied Sadik-Khan. She added that DOT is still developing the specifics of how RPP will operate, but that "the early estimate is $1.8 million for administration costs citywide."

Other noteworthy exchanges and facts:

  • 110,000 fewer vehicles will enter the central business district
    every day once pricing takes effect, according to the commissioner.
  • In response to a question from Quinn about mitigating the park-and-ride effect, Sadik-Khan said, "We don’t anticipate that this will be a problem. Parking is already at 98% capacity in these neighborhoods [adjacent to the zone]. We think it’s unlikely that people will drive to these neighborhoods just to park and get on the subway, but we are mindful of those concerns, so we proposed RPP so that residents have priority to park in those neighborhoods."
  • When Maria Baez, chair of the State and Federal Legislation Committee, asked if the proposed $65 late fee might be lowered, the commissioner said "No," explaining that $65 is the same fine levied for a parking violation.
  • Asked by Staten Island Council member Michael McMahon whether police and firefighters would be granted congestion fee exemptions, Sadik-Khan responded: "That’s not our intent right now. The exemption route is a slippery
    slope. We are trying to make a system that makes it easier for fire
    trucks to get around so they can save lives. Right now they are
    competing with traffic."
  • When McMahon opined that the proposed transit improvements for Staten Island "didn’t seem like much," Aggarwala said, "The expansion in express bus service — that’s a significant investment in the second
    most frequent means of getting to the CBD from Staten Island [after the ferry]. For the first time in a long
    time, the MTA has made a commitment to look at regions that are
    disadvantaged in terms of transit access."
  • Dave

    I strongly disagree with the policy of not charging for RPP; their implementation will be a benefit to those who have them so charge for the privilege of having first dibs.

    I also think RPP should be implemented city-wide with standard rules. Aren’t our experiences with the CB’s enough to make us wary of leaving decisions to the layman?

    This idea will be unpopular I am sure but how do we feel about raising MTA funds be installing zones in our subway system, like those of most other cities (Washington, London, Paris, etc)

    The fact that the fare is the same everywhere means that those of us taking shorter rides subsidize the rides of those in the outer reaches. Force a swipe on exiting the subway and if you’ve gone too far have another fare deducted.

    How much do you think we could raise this way?

  • Moser

    Sadik-Khan full testimony at http://www.nyc.gov/dot

  • momos

    “Aggarwala referred Fidler to page 23 of the congestion pricing bill, which specifically says that pricing revenue will not be used to offset any state funding. This seemed to catch the council member somewhat off guard.”

    Excellent! Sounds like Aggarwala and JSK acquitted themselves well and had a strong answer to every conceivable “unanswered question” the pols could come up with

  • rlb

    Dave

    Zone charging for the subway has a host of problems. One of those being the extreme regressiveness of it.
    People want to live near their jobs. The greatest concentration of jobs are in Midtown and Downtown. Home/rental prices in the residential neighborhoods near these business districts are pushed up by demand. Those with lower incomes can only afford to live in distant neighborhoods. Their rides to work are longer.

  • Dave

    Zone pricing might not be good news for those with longer commutes but I disagree that it should be called regressive. They have a longer commute using more of the service provided by the MTA so they should pay more.

    Forget about me and how as a Manhattan co-op owner I subsidize the subway fares and property taxes of most New Yorkers. How about Harlem residents? It is not so far as the outer boroughs but those income-constrained workers pay the same fare? How is that fair to them?

    And they are plenty of people who could afford to love near work or the subway but chose to live at a distance because their commuting costs are they same no matter how long their commutes are.

    Are we not subsidizing sprawl this way? If a longer commute were to cost more would we not see higher densities closer to midtown and other business districts?

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    I just saw this as I remained until the very last person spoke at the hearing last night until about 11 pm.

    The Commissioner’s answer to my funding question was NOT satisfactory as I pointed out later. The language says that it shall not be a setoff to any “obligations”. Not all State transit aid is “obligated”, general;ly a term used in connection with bonding. IF the State leg was serious about the lockbox concept the terms used would be a guaranteed maintenace of effort. Everyone hre knows or should that the dollars in the lockbox will be meaningless if dollars outside the lockbox are diminished.

    Also, as to RPP, which is a proposal that shifts in the sand depending onthe day and the questioneer, the new assertion is that there will be no fee to parkers. However, after pressing this question for two weeks, the Commissioner told me that preliminary estimates are that it will cost 1.8 million tax dollars but would not or could not justify the number. /There is no way on this planet that this will be the cost as theoutreach cost alone will exceed that. Is it coming from congestion pricing revenue? Or is it coming from social service, public safety or otehr programs>? There is no free parking. It has to come from somewhere.

    And what, no mention of my shout out to Streetsbloggers regarding my request for legislation on cameras for bus lane enforceme4nt?

  • If the guarantee were carved in stone and handed down from Mt. Sinai, Lew still wouldn’t be satisfied. He would say that the thunder wasn’t loud enough when it was being handed down, so it is not a real guarantee.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Lew, as a result of 15 years of something for nothing, the MTA is broke even though we have just about the highest state and local tax burden in the country. And, street maintenance has been cut back. More and more money is going to debts and pensions.

    You’ve proposed to increase taxes further, but only for NEW projects, and only on wages, NOT on retirement income (exempt from NYS and NYC income taxes) or investment income. What about the hole created by the end of the real estate transfer tax windfall, whose cash is already blown?

    If you are willing to advocate bankruptcy for NYC, NY State and the MTA, and an end to having our taxes, fares and tolls go to pensions, retiree health care and debts from the past, rather than transportation in the present, we’re talking. Otherwise, it’s more of the “something for nothing” that got us into this mess to begin with.

    We will have higher taxes, diminished services, and higher fees, or we will find a way to walk away from those obligations. Anything else is mathmatically impossible, as many families with exploding mortgages are finding out.

    http://www.youwalkaway.com/

  • Larry Littlefield

    Remember, the rich and the other rich, those invested in tax free municipal bonds and those receiving tax free public employee pensions, will need those who follow to pay. How much do you think they’ll be willing to pay for how little?

    Right now we have a functioning transit system. I reccommend keeping it that way, though I’m increasingly skeptical our elected officials will set aside the “needs” of those the inside and deliver.

  • Shemp

    Lew, couldn’t you apply your skepticism over lock-boxes to any funding measure for transit, or for any specific purpose?

    Real estate transfer taxes were raised a couple of years ago to fund transit. Did you oppose that measure too?

  • Lew applies his skepticism to everything except hydrogen-powered cars – his solution to global warming. All the experts say that hydrogen-powered cars will not be economically feasible until 2050 or so, much too late to control the worst effects of global warming. But Lew apparently thinks there is an absolute, ironclad guarantee that hydrogen cars will save us.

    Lew, why do you have such a high standard about the guarantee for congestion pricing revenues, and such a low standard about the guarantee for hydrogen cars?

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    First, yes, you could apply my sketicism to any lockbox mechanism that is creted by Albany since each and everyone hs been perverted or raided at one time or another. Fair point. doesnt mean I am wrong to be skeptical about htis one, a view share by over half the people responsing to the Q poll.

    Larry, you assault on people’s ertuirment pensions is in my view meritless. First, most of us hoping to retire someday will have CONTRIBUTED from i\our income to our retuirements, pension funds included. Second, in the absence of such, how many people would wind up on some govt program or another out of abject poverty.

    third, my tax on wages is a one third of pne percent tax on business owners. Hardly a job killer, it would be equitable in that affects taxpayers in the surrounding counties as well.
    I could live with the Assembly’s millionaires tax too, btw.

    And for those that continue to repeat repeat repeat the BLARNEY that Hydrogen cars wont be here until 2050, WAKE UP. White Plains just entered into an agreement with an auto manufacturer to open a hydrogen fueling station and to start using test cars in their fleet. See the NYTimes article on the same…..I don’t know how to do links, sorry. but it there. OR the Sunday Auto section from November in the Times dedicated ENTIRELY to Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles, in which two manufacturer’s have said they will have hydrogen fuel cell models available in their showrooms next year.

    In your zeal to pass the morbidly flawed CPplan, your collective need to shoot down an idea that would do more to clean our air than any otehr thing opn the table astonishes me. BUT it will not happen until and unless we encourage the infrastructure to support it. Or the change really WILL take until 2050. Mass production will reduce costs. Zero emission automobiles. It is NOT a dream.

  • Shemp

    Lew, thanks for honestly considering the point. I’m not with you on this issue but do appreciate having at least a few Councilmembers who do their homework, think seriously about policy and are articulate when talking about it.

  • And what, no mention of my shout out to Streetsbloggers regarding my request for legislation on cameras for bus lane enforceme4nt?

    It sounds like you outlasted our reporter, Lew. Sorry we missed it. Bus lane enforcement cams would be a big help….

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Second, in the absence of such, how many people would wind up on some govt program or another out of abject poverty.)

    We will find out, in my generation and after.

  • Riverdalian

    Lew – what was it you started to say yesterday about Koppell before you were cut off?

  • Mark

    Lew, the problem with hydrogen-powered cars is that hydrogen is more a way to move energy around than a form of energy in itself. It’s not a solution to the energy crisis, any more than the automobile is a one-size-fits-all solution to our current and future needs for multi-modal transport. But I have always admired the collegial spirit of your posts and personally wish you well.

  • “And there are plenty of people who could afford to live near work or the subway but chose to live at a distance because their commuting costs are they same no matter how long their commutes are.”

    Dave, surely you are joking. The long commute times themselves are as much or more of a disincentive to live further from work than the cost of the commute.

    I feel very safe in saying that neither I nor most of my neighbors could afford to live anywhere near midtown Manhattan at this point. Maybe two or three decades ago the decision was a matter of personal preference, but that has not been the case for many years. What sort of zone charge could possibly close the gap between housing costs in midtown Manhattan and those in Central Brooklyn? Or Southeast Queens?

    By the way, co-op owners in “the rest” of NYC pay property taxes too (so do renters as part of their rent), and our buildings don’t have the benefit of sky-high commercial rental income, which will subsidize Manhattan co-op owners even more with the phasing out of 80/20 rules.

  • Hilary

    And one might argue that the environmental benefit of diverting an outer borough commuter from driving to transit is greater than the fat cat who lives in Manhattan. I would propose instead making entrance to the subways and bus lines that are way out there free. If the Kheel plan is introduced in phased, I would think it would begin at the periphery, no?

  • Dave

    Taxes and co-ops and condos are higher than those on single-family and under four-unit buildings which are the greater proportion of housing in the outer boroughs.

    Why does NYC think it has to reinvent the wheel? You take a longer flight, busride, trainride, you pay more. Why shouldn’t it be the same in the subway.

    And I disagree that a long commute is a disincentive: espcially if you thought you could get the bigger house/apartment further out and drive into the city for free.

    Now the situation changes and you’re not happy, but why should I subsidize your hours-long commute?

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    What I was about to say about Koppell, referred to a back and forth that Ollie had earlier….don’t waorry, he’s still oon your side, but is terribly upset with the failure to charge people from NJ a nickel in the CP schema. He points out that it provides no disincentive to them to come into the CBD when they are about 22% of the auto entrants.
    My point is that IF CP actually works, it will actually be a positive incentive for these peo0ple to drive in. They will pay no more and have fewer cars competing with them on the streets. Who klnows….maybe the NYC cars will be replaced by NJ cars.

    Just another unfair element of this system that they have refused for over a year to address.

    Lew

  • Ian D

    Lew, just to repeat a point I’ve made here before…in the brief-summary form:

    I live in Manhattan and work at the Newark Int’l Airport. I own a car and could drive to work (I essentially garage my car in the employee lot at EWR). It costs me $15 each way to take NJ Transit to work (cheaper but longer using the PATH and NJ Transit bus). If it was free for me to drive through the Holland Tunnel, I probably would. But it costs $8 (in addition to gas, etc.) – and that disincentive convinces me not to drive (there are other factors as well, but that’s a big one).

    The congestion pricing plan on the Holland Tunnel works on me – there’s one less car. And no, the reduced traffic in Manhattan isn’t going to suck me back into an auto-commute.

  • JP

    Dave,
    So the poor girl that bagged your purchase at the Fairway has to pay $5 to get work, so she’d like her raise to cover that cost, and your purchase just went up to cover it. See, it works both ways. You Psuedo-libertarian Cato Institute types forget that. Also, no system of taxation can work that allows one to opt out of every part of the tax system. Hey I don’t have kids, why should I pay taxes for schools, hey I don’t have anyone I’d like to arrest why pay for cops. Civilized societies can’t operate that way. BTW, I support CP, it’s silly, inefficient, unnecessary, and destructive to regularly drive a private car in to Manhattan under current conditions. In reality, we’ve always had CP, it just went to the parking garage owners. However declaring war on 7 million people isn’t the way to get it done.

  • JP

    Oh BTW, I Dave your Sprawl comment is foolish. The outer are at full development right now, there is very little sprawl to be built and honestly, very little true sprawl anyway. The land is still valuable enough to preclude.

  • “Taxes and co-ops and condos are higher than those on single-family and under four-unit buildings which are the greater proportion of housing in the outer boroughs.”

    Dave, been to Brooklyn lately? Like, since WWII? Even my neighborhood, which has a higher proportion of single-family homes than some, also has plenty of 50+ unit apartment buildings, many of which are co-ops. New buildings are sprouting up all over, from Williamsburg to Crown Heights to Flatbush, and these are mostly 12+ unit condo buildings. Their residents pay the same high property tax that you do. Most of us weren’t lured here by a big-ass house; we moved here to buy an affordable apartment, and we already take transit.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    “In her opening remarks, Sadik-Khan mentioned that drivers entering Manhattan through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels will pay $45 million per year as a result of pricing. When Council member Joel Rivera asked about the logic behind the number, Sadik-Khan and Aggarwala explained that drivers who pay with cash instead of EZPass will not be eligible for the pricing offset. In other words, those drivers will pay both the Port Authority toll and the full pricing fee.”

    You call this a fair deal for NJ? This is “fair and balanced” the way Fox 5 gives the news.

    “As expected, one of the first points to come up was whether drivers from New Jersey will contribute anything to the congestion pricing revenue stream. Turns out they will.” [Only if they pay CASH and do not have E-Z pass]

    As has been pointed out on other threads, cash toll payers generally have lower incomes statistically, so WHO is targeted here for the extra $45-million/year?

    Regarding the Residential Parking Permit Study – I’ve checked it and it is rushed and bogus; check the DOT website. Downtown Brooklyn, with quantitatively some of the worst placard abusers, will be an absolute nightmare with CP. And, placard abuse is barely mentioned in this Residential Parking Permit study. Downtown Brooklyn is in for a shock and awe parking permit problem if CP is implemented.

    “Asked by Staten Island Council member Michael McMahon whether police and firefighters would be granted congestion fee exemptions, Sadik-Khan responded: “That’s not our intent right now. The exemption route is a slippery slope.””

    Yeah, you know what “the slippery slope” means, it means the first amendment to the CP bill, if it is sadly implemented, would be to grant EXEMPTIONS to government sector placard holders. There is no COMMITMENT here at all to dealing with the placard abuse problem. I can’t believe anyone buys this, especially in view of the DOT’s track record of umpteen years of “exempting” the government sector from any parking permit violations.

  • Hilary

    Cash-payers are not only lower income on average. They are also more apt to be non-commuters and non-car-owners. The MTA and PA are structuring the offset to reward exactly the kind of behaviour that CP is supposed to discourage. The incentives are perverse. The formula should be set to achieve an X% reduction of cars entering the city from NJ. What we have is a deal intended to politically appease NY and optimize the PA’s revenues for its bondholders.

    I support CP but am totally cynical about its intention or ability to reduce traffic.

  • Chinatown Resident

    I can’t believe folks on here actually BUY the line from DOT Commish, that “that’s not our intent now”…with regard to exempting Law Enforcement and FDNY . It was Chinatown in 1986 (NY Times)who first blew the whistle on compromised safety, loss of City revenue, and loss of business revenue due to the NYPD/FDNY/Gov’t placard take over of our streets, and we’re still fighting to this day, and you idiot pro-Con-Pricing folks ROLL OVER at the first whiff of a “no exemption” whimper from the commish. Even in the face of a $570,000.00 Study that proves a system of NYPD regulating NYPD does not work, you’re still going to back the commish. you guys rolled over like trained seals. HOW dissapointing. If this goes thru, then every ticket every FDNY and NYPD gets will be accompanied by some LAME excuse that the so-called placard holder was on “official business”, into the shredder goes that ticket. You must be outta your mind to think that ANYONE who works for that newly formed placard oversite bureau (great another bureacracy) is going to actually CHECK to see if “official business” was valid!! Don’t hold your breath waiting for those Congestion pricing fees to start POURING IN from NYPD and FDNY Ez-Passes…. Law Enforcement get their OWN EZ pass, how “rigged” is that??
    Don’t believe me? read the $570,000.00 study , maybe you’ll change your mind. And if you think YOUR lobby is strong and powerful and influencial….think about this… WHY was the Commish so LUKE warm and non-committal in her response… either you ARE exempt or you are NOT exempt. Period.

  • Dave

    Are they still towing the placard-parkers in Chinatown? I thought that was a good sign that some street were considered placard-free-zones and and that was actually being enforced.

    I thought that maybe marking swaths of the city no-placard zones would be a solution. Enforcement would be an issue but there has to be a way to end the abuse.

  • chinatown resident

    Dave,
    towing as subsided to some degree. The recent crackdown following the release of the $570,000.00 placard study has had an interesting, but expected response. Placards that have been confiscated by Internal Affairs for whatever reason have not stopped the same offenders from parking illegally, they have just gone out and gotten fake pale blue or pink paper permits rather than the laminated ones originally issued to them. The same cars now have new placards is the point, and Chinatown, according to the backs of the placards themselves, and reiterated in the Study IS a no-placard zone, always has been, and that IS a DOT designation. It’s just not observed and only recently enforced and with fluctuating vigor. Trans Alt’s own report “Uncivil Servants” is a testimony to the lengths that government employees and NYPD will go to ensure they ALWAYS have this perk. It’s just as much the fault of this administration for NOT addressing the culture of corruption and abuse, coupled with the denial that NYPD is underpaid, that will continue this attitude of disgruntled workers who draw the line between “us” and “them”. At least I was not bought off by the Mayor with promises of miles of bike lanes, what good is that if disgruntled City workers in their cars are bumping you off the road??? oh, and not paying to use the road either.

  • Isaac

    You guys in Chinatown need to realize that congestion pricing is pretty much the best shot you’ll ever have to solve the placard abuse problem.

    As long as enforcement is dependent on cops ticketing and towing other cops, enforcement will always be spotty at best.

    If, however, you make these same cops pay a congestion fee via ruthless electronic payment with no human intervention, you’re going to reduce the number of them driving in to work every day and, in turn, reduce the number of them parking illegally on city streets. Congestion pricing with no govt employee exemption is what Chinatown ought to be fighting for.

    The other smart thing Chinatown residents and merchants could push for would be to convert many of the streets down there to car-free streets.

    Converting many of those nice little streets into car-free places would be a huge boon to Chinatown business, parents, kids, visitors, you name it. It’d be the surest way to return Chinatown to its status as a major NYC destination. It would help lift Chinatown out of its post-9/11 economic doldrums.

    While I sympathize with their plight, I truly hope we start to see and hear some more vision and creativity from Chinatown activists, politicians and business owners beyond this single-minded demand for ticketing and towing cop cars.

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